There are no words for this neglect. Sorry. I actually rewrote this chapter because the last one was lacking so much. (And I had gotten really into it when I realized I had already posted chapter 8. For the sake of the fic, and because I cut out ten chapters that were originally were supposed to be in this story, you get this.)
What's it been now? Two years? Damn.
What are we doing
We are turning into dust
Playing house in the ruins of us
"You're still here," Jeremy scoffed Monday morning as he came in for a change of clothing.
Matt looked up from the kitchen table and scowled. Okay, he understood Jeremy's anger and he couldn't say it was uncalled for, his and Sora's history may have been something to worry about – once. That smug thought brought a smirk to the blond's lips but he looked up and smiled, a kind gesture meant to ease the older man's temper. Unfortunately, before the grin could be taken in, Jeremy had registered Matt's arrogance.
Matt sighed and gestured for Jeremy to sit in the seat beside him. "I'd like to speak with you, please."
"I'm busy," Jeremy replied tartly.
Hesitantly, the American took a seat at the table and glanced at Matt cautiously.
"Thank you. It's safe to say we started off on the wrong foot," Matt began. He sounded so utterly cliché that it bugged him. "Sora is my friend and nothing more. I know you may not see it that way and hell, if I were you I'd be pissed off too. But please understand that I came here for her wedding to you. I have no other reason to be here. I'd like to see Sora happy and before the," he paused, not wanting to bring up the argument he witnessed two days ago, "disagreement, I seen her face light up when your name was mentioned. Let me tell you, I haven't seen Sora that happy in a long time."
Jeremy stayed quiet as Matt inwardly groaned at the lie. He'd seen her happier. And it wasn't because of the brunet man sitting next to him.
"Well, thank you for trying to clear the air. I appreciate it. I have to be going now, if you see my fiancé today before I do, will you let her know that I'll be home for dinner."
"Sure thing, bro. Have a good day."
"Same to you."
Matt watched Jeremy walk out of the apartment and cursed into his coffee cup. He really needed to find another place to stay. It wasn't like he didn't have the money, and selfishly, he wanted to stay in Sora's home. It was a friends-close-enemies-closer type deal, even though he told himself that he would let her have her happiness. It killed him, deep down in his very soul, he felt like she was his soul mate. It was hard to let that go.
Mimi had once told him that he had to work hard to get Sora back, because that woman was a force that would not easily be taken with anyone – even if they had history. And it was true; Sora was a deeply emotional person who had this internal strength that kept her grounded, realistic, and cautious. She didn't fall for men quickly and she appreciated those who put the effort in. Jeremy had been a persistent man. Matt knew he should have tried harder.
Sighing to himself, Matt went about the apartment gathering his things. He needed to leave.
"Shit!" Mimi cursed as she stumbled down the street, trying to get her bearings and remember where she parked her car. It wouldn't really help to find the damn thing; she had left her purse at Sora's studio. She didn't even have her phone. Mimi considered walking into a store and just waiting it out until Tai would be gone.
Lucky hadn't been Mimi's forte in a long time. She turned, eyebrow raised and hands resting on her hips. "What?"
It was taking more courage than she had to keep the façade of an irritated woman who wanted nothing to do with the impossibly attractive man who was watching her with an unsettling eye. He was still angry, she knew him well enough to realize that much. His hands were fisted in his pockets and he was chewing on the inside of his cheek. Mimi titled her head to the side, and leaned forward. "Well?"
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming? Why didn't you tell me you had a daughter? Why didn't…"
"Why didn't I what? I didn't have to tell you anything. What happens with me is my business. I assure you, Tai, that if you had anything to do with me or my life, you would matter. You're not a part of my life and that is your fau-" Mimi stopped herself before she said something stupid and eased her tense stance. "You weren't at the top of my priority list. We would have seen each other eventually. You're a busy person anyway, aren't you?"
Tai shook his head and exhaled deeply. "Why didn't you tell me you had a kid?" he repeated. He needed to know and he wasn't sure why. Maybe it was just because he snidely always thought she would belong to him – mind, soul, and body. The little girl in the pictures he had seen looked so much like Mimi that he was amazed. He let his mind wander a bit and saw himself with her and that little girl. That was the life he had wanted years ago. That life was out of his reach now and he'd never get it, no matter how hard he tried to turn back time.
"Because I didn't have to!" Mimi snapped. "Look, Tai… we're not even friends anymore. You and I are, if anything, just acquaintances. And really, I'd like to not be seen with you. Your best friends are mine too. I know all about the way you are now. To be perfectly honest, playboy, I don't need people like you in my life. So, if you'll excuse me, I'll be leaving now."
"What happened to you?" Tai demanded, reaching for her. He dragged her toward him and held her at arm's length by her biceps. Mimi averted her gaze and took to staring at the Ferris wheel in the distance. "Look at me!" Tai commanded. "You're saying we're not friends. You're making it seem like we meant nothing to each other but we both know that's not true. That's never been true."
"And you're acting like this is some lover's reunion. Now let go of me," Mimi shoved away from him. Her eyebrows drew together, and her forehead creased.
Tai let his hands fall away from her when he realized she was right. He was acting as if she was still his to touch. He found himself on the verge of tears when he really stopped to see that she wasn't the Mimi he had loved so much that he let his love for her consume him. It had turned him into a bitter person. It turned him into a jackass and he knew that well. But if he was sure of anything, he knew she loved him just as much as he loved her – at one time, and maybe still now. They both loved with everything they had and they held on until there was nothing left to grasp. Maybe Mimi had honestly given up holding on.
"Do you love me?"
Mimi's eyes widened and she stared at him as if he were crazy. "What kind of question is that?"
She smiled, so serene and beautiful that it scared Tai. "No," she shook her head, still smiling. "I don't. I haven't for a long time."
Davis followed Kari with his eyes as she fidgeted and paced across her bedroom. It made him a little uncomfortable. He wanted to know why his girlfriend was creating a worn path from end to end of the cream-colored rug. "Would you please stop?"
She shook her head and bit her lip. "I feel, I just… I'm not… I ruined… everything… and my brother…"
"Davis," she sighed and ran a hand through her hair, settling it in a claw-like hold at the base of her neck. "I have to tell you something. A few things really."
He reclined on her bed and nodded, "Shoot."
She didn't like that he seemed so nonchalant. By now, at this point in their relationship, Davis should have known when she was upset and pinpoint why because she was his girlfriend! Nastily, the resentful part of her lamented that this sort of thing had never happened with TK. He could read her like his favorite book, one with dog-eared pages that he quoted with fervor.
"I don't know where to begin," she started uneasily. "There's bad news and worse news and to be completely honest, I'm not sure which the bigger demon to be tackled is."
"There are demons now? Is your brother a demon, Kar?" Davis sat up and placed his elbows on his knees, casting his full attention in her direction. "Start with 'I ruined' and move on from there."
If only it were that simple. If only Kari had it in her to say, 'I think I slept with TK the other night. But, don't worry, I was really drunk and I didn't mean to.' Somehow that didn't seem like the path to take. Davis would be livid and after his anger settled, he'd be absolutely crushed.
On the other hand, she wondered if telling Davis what her mother had told her would be wise. It was common knowledge that, while his intentions were always good, Davis still held Tai in high regard and would probably insist on telling Tai everything he knew. That couldn't happen. Kari swore to keep the secret because… well, Tai didn't deserve to know. There was a pang of guilt deep in her stomach when she let herself acknowledge her beloved brother's transgressions.
"Are you going to talk anytime soon? I'm kind of getting hungry. Jun's refusing to feed me and her daughter – I love that kid but she's stingy with the Cheerios."
Kari shook her head. She couldn't tell him anything. Even when she was trying to be serious, he was thinking with his stomach. "Forget it. I'll just call TK later. Let's go get some food."
Davis twitched at the mention of TK and watched Kari's back as she walked toward the door, grabbing her purse and waiting for him almost impatiently. He suddenly really wanted to know what she was going to say. Something told him it wasn't good.
"Push!" the doctor urged.
An eighteen-year-old brunette lay propped up on pillows, her legs spread uncomfortably, but the pain that she felt left no room for embarrassment. Her long hair was pulled into a messy bun and her bangs were matted against her forehead with sweat. Her best friend, in utter shock and slightly disgusted, held her hand; he was on the verge of tears as she squeezed his fingers with the grip of a warrior. In his head, he was slightly cursing both his ex-girlfriend and the crying girl's ex-boyfriend. Neither of them was here; and in his opinion, they sure as hell should be.
"Son, you have to tell your girlfriend to push. There is too much stress on your baby," the doctor informed him.
Matt groaned, yet leaned in to her regardless of the fact that he wasn't her boyfriend nor was he the father. She laid panting and moaning in pain on the bed in her private hospital room. Her jaw clenched and she fought back the pain of another contraction. Still with every nerve burning jolt, her nails pierced his flesh.
"Mimi," he said as he cupped her cheek and brushed away her sweaty hair. "Mimi, you need to push. The baby needs you to push."
"Matt, help me! Please!" she begged with tears streaming down her flushed cheeks. She seemed delirious as her gaze swiveled around the room, looking for someone. "Where is he?"
"He's coming. He's coming," Matt reassured, "with Sora."
It was a false promise. He wasn't coming. Nevertheless, Sora was on her way. Matt had called her, begged her to come to the hospital. He was terrified. He had spent nine months preparing for this moment but it wasn't his place and it he wasn't ready.
"Matt!" Mimi's scream ripped through his memories of the past year.
The door opened suddenly. Sora was immediately pushing Matt away and standing at Mimi's side. There was the bustle of chatter, the doctor and nurses reminding Mimi that she needed to keep trying. Sora asked if she could help and then a nurse was helping the redhead onto the bed where she settled herself behind her best friend. Mimi clutched Sora's hands and Sora soothed her screams, gently coaxing her to relax, breathe, and push.
Mimi's father stood at the back of the room, close enough to see his daughter yet far enough to not intrude on the birth. He was scowling and anger laced with regret flickered in his eyes.
"One, two, three… Push!"
"You're doing great, Meems," Sora assured. Mimi laughed bitterly, succumbing to another cry of pain.
"One more push, Mimi. I can see the head," the doctor encouraged.
"You can do it. Bring that precious gift into the world, Mi," Sora said in her nurturing, motherly voice.
Matt watched his two friends, marveling at how much better Sora was at this than he. Her eyes were alight with excitement, and she projected that emotion into Mimi who seemed to have renewed faith in herself and her ability to do this.
"Here we go! One… two… three!"
They watched as Mimi dug deep for the strength to give birth. She interlaced her fingers with Sora's; the older girl's auburn eyes danced with delight and excitement as she held her friend's hands tighter. Matt and Keisuke winced at the sound of her final scream. Then there was the tiniest of cries, like a kitten mewing and it gradually grew louder until it filled the room.
Matt stared in amazement at the tiny creature in the doctor's arms. The baby was wailing as the nurse took the infant over to the side table for cleaning, vitals, and measurements. Once freshened, it was wrapped in a pink and blue stripped blanket and brought back the infant's mother.
"Mommy," the nurse laughed, "say hello to your beautiful baby girl."
Mimi held her arms out expectantly and the infant was placed in them. The baby was still crying but when Mimi cuddled her, nuzzling her cheek against her daughter's, the cries subsided. The young mother traced the tip of her finger over the baby's soft features. She looked like her. Mimi pulled the tiny beanie off the little girl's head and was hit with a realization that she was somehow expecting; soft and warm dark brown hairs peaked up at her touch. There was a soft cry and Mimi pulled the baby back to stare at her. The small face cracked one eye open and Mimi smiled.
Mimi suddenly remembered something. Her eyes darted around the room, scanning every face there. Sora dropped her gaze and Matt shook his head. The young mother, barely old enough to take care of herself, cried as she held her child to her chest. "Sayuri… my Sayuri."
Mimi blinked in the darkness, trying to focus on the numbers of the digital clock. It was nearing five in the morning and she knew she still had time to sleep but she couldn't. Beside her, Sayuri was in a deep sleep, snoring softly into her stuffed dinosaur. Mimi pushed the child's hair from her eyes and just stared at her.
It was in a mother's nature to only see their child as perfect and Mimi was no exception. She had done this so many times in the past, simply laid there and watched the soft contours of Sayuri's face: round cheeks, a small nose, long lashes, and thin lips.
Raising the little girl hadn't been as tragic as she had imagined. They were graced with a brilliant support system and, though Mimi had refused at first, hired help. She learned from a nice woman how to breast feed, bathe, and settle her daughter when she was cranky. Matt had been dragged into the crash course and together they became like a well-oiled machine when Sayuri woke up screaming in the dead of night.
So many times, Mimi had wished it was Tai's voice telling her to stay in bed, saying that he would handle it. She would be forever grateful to her best friend but it was never his place.
Mimi wasn't sure why she was doing this; nevertheless, she grabbed her phone from the night table and flipped through for a number she had hidden as an alternate contact for Kari. It hadn't changed; she knew that from periodically, and childishly, dialing it every on occasion when she just needed to reassure herself that he was alive.
Her name is Sayuri. Would you like to meet her? – Mimi
She pressed the send button and set the phone to airplane mode before crawling back under the covers and hugging her daughter tightly. She didn't need to see the reply right away.
If he really put time and effort into it, Ken could have been a stalker by trade. He had the creepy ability to simply exist and never be seen. The sun hadn't risen very long ago but still he stood under a tree half a block away from the apartment building the Kidos lived in. He had managed to find out everything he could possibly need to know about Joe Kido and his family. He knew about their practice and how some accepted Kimiko more than others.
He thought very highly of Joe Kido because although not everyone agreed with his decision, he didn't think twice about raising the baby as his own. She wasn't really his, and genetically, she never would be but from what he gathered – that didn't stop Joe from acting as if she were. Ken was honestly grateful for that. He was heartbroken when Sam died and he knew how much his brother meant to Jun. While regarded as a gift, Kimiko was just born at a bad time.
All his minor investigation had led him to this street, where he waited for Joe to leave for work so he could talk to him. He was sure that Jun had gone home to her husband and probably told him that Ken was there to take her kid or something and that wasn't the case at all. Not in the slightest. All Ken really wanted was the opportunity to thank Joe and to ask for both his and Jun's permission, as Kimiko's parents, to spend time with his niece. He meant no hostility, just a fair chance to watch his brother's daughter grow up.
He checked his watch for the tenth time and was finally rewarded with the appeared of the man with the blue-black hair. Ken hadn't really thought about how he would approach Joe. Would he be well-mannered and respectful? Would he treat Joe like any other guy? Ken was running out of time as Joe started walking in the opposite direction toward the car park.
"Joe!" Ken called, crossing the street and running to the man.
Joe turned slowly, squinting behind his glasses to decipher the identity of the mysterious man who had demanded his attention. The man who was now only feet away from him was long and thin, much like TK but with paler skin and inky black hair. He had an uneasy smile on his lips and his fingers were tugging the loops of his jeans.
"May I help you?" Joe asked warily, still eying the almost timed fidgeting of the man's wrist.
"Ah! Yeah! My name's Ken. I'm… um…" Ken felt utterly stupid as he struggled with the words. Rationality told him to just spit it out but it was easier said than done. He took a deep breath and steadied his stance. "Hello, my name is Ken Ichijoji. My older brother was Sam."
Ken nodded. "I'm sorry for interrupting you on your way to work, it's just I saw Jun yesterday and she seemed pretty flustered and Kimiko didn't even know who I was. I… I wanted to apologize if I scared them. I think I did upset my niece and that was never my intention."
"Okay," Joe said slowly, even more on edge than when he thought the man was just some crazy kid on the street.
"I wanted to know if maybe I could meet up with you, Jun, and Kimiko. We're family, sort of. And I'd appreciate the chance to really be in Kimiko's life. As long as that's okay with you two; you're her parents after all."
Ken listened to himself talk and recoiled at what his father would say if he heard him babbling on like a mindless child. "So… yeah…" Very eloquent, he berated.
Joe looked around and then up toward his apartment window. "She was really worried about you being here. You know where we live, I assume. Just come by around seven. We'll have dinner. I have to get to work now. We'll talk more then."
Ken gave Joe a bright smile and even stepped forward, hugging Joe too tightly in his excitement. "Thank you so much, Joe. Really."
Joe coughed and pushed the younger man away. It was awkward when he nodded politely and walked away, a little faster than necessary. He prayed he was making the right decision.
Izzy slammed his head against the kitchen counter a few times before pulling away and glaring at his reflection in the toaster. He looked like hell and he felt like an asshole. A beautiful woman had taken a long trip to come see him and he had taken her to eat at McDonald's. And, as if his excellent taste in fine dining weren't enough, he had gone and dumped half a decade's worth of drama on her.
They had just started talking about work and then life and suddenly, he was spilling secrets about his love life, or lack thereof, and his friends and their tangled webs. He made her a confidant over salted fries and vanilla milkshakes. Not once though, did they really talk about the changes in the launch. She was his secretary for goodness sake. She was a nice woman and all; nevertheless, she had stalked him back to his hometown and sought him out. For someone to do that, it had to have been important.
Rei never complained though nor did she speak much. She merely listened and Izzy found that more attractive than her nice figure and pretty face. Not many people would sit back and listen to him prattle on about technology or chemistry. He had, at one point in the long conversation, brought up the channels that connected parallel universes and she agreed with him on most counts.
It was more the matters of the heart that Rei really contributed to the conversation. She brought to light a point of view that Izzy had really found trivial. Still, he listened to her talk about love like it was magical and about the way it made you feel for forever – not just for a few seconds before it dwindled and dead like an orgasm.
Izzy rather liked watching Rei talked. She was flustered and shy but never redundant or tiresome.
"Can you please share with the class why you're abusing my sister's kitchen with your head?"
Izzy looked over his shoulder and scowled in Davis' direction. "I'm trying to be as primitive as you, now leave me alone."
Jun laughed as she entered, Kimi running past her to jump at Davis' legs and demand to be carried around. "Rough night?" she asked Izzy, pouring herself a cup of coffee. She leaned on the counter beside him and waited patiently for him to talk.
"I think I might be in love, though I'm not sure. I've never been in love so I can't relate the symptoms of what I'm feeling to this."
"Should I call Meems and Sor, we can get them here in like an hour and have girl time!" Jun clapped her hands excitedly and Izzy flipped her off disdainfully. "I was kidding. But hey, if you think you're in love, then let it happen. You never know, you might like it."
"When have you ever known Izzy to just let something happen? He has to research everything, and then makes up pie charts and reports. I've seen him do that when he was buying curtains. Could you imagine him really dating a girl?"
"Uncle Davis, leave Uncle Izzy alone!" Kimi chided, pulling Davis' hair and making the man yelp.
Looking between the Motomiya siblings, Izzy sighed and though he hated to admit it, Davis had a point. He was a lot more carefree in when he was a teenager. Being an adult had ruined him. Being an adult had ruined a few of them.
Jun pried Kimi's fingers open, laughing all the while. "What did your daddy say about doing that to Davis?"
Izzy watched them and smiled. Well, being an adult hadn't ruined them all.
"So you slept with her?"
"Yes, but not really."
"What does that mean?"
"It means we shared a bed."
"So you didn't sleep with her in the non-dignified sense?"
Rika stopped dribbling the ball in her hands and stared at TK in wonderment. They had been playing basketball for over an hour – their own brand of therapy, and all they seemed to really do whenever they met up. They talked all the time because Rika was the only girl he felt he could tell anything to. Naturally, he had told her about the Kari thing, leaving out how he was essentially using the act to make Kari feel as little as possible. It was called karma!
"You didn't do it on purpose, did you?"
TK rolled his eyes. Rika was always too perceptive. He had, however, spent a lot of time with his brother and Tai when he was young, he could lie his ass off. "No, I just did for her what I'd hope anyone would do for me. I brought her home and let her sleep at my place because I know how pissed off her parents get when she drinks. They still think she's this perfect little angel."
She was still standing in front of him, leveling him with a concerned gaze. It was something Sora did to everyone; it was a mother-like look that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The Takenouchi women were evil.
"What more do you want me to say, Rika? Did you want me to leave her there and let someone just take her home with them and we find out days later that she was raped or something?" He played off the effect his own words had had on him with a laugh.
"I just want you to grow up a little, Takeru." She had called him by his real name and it stung coming from Rika. "I have to get going. I'm having lunch with Sora and Jeremy. Get your head on straight and your shit together."
With that, she threw the basketball at him, making him gasp with the impact. There was no possible way she was as upset as she was out of jealously; he knew their relationship was nothing like that. Her shoulders were stiff when she left him on the court alone. He was shocked by her attitude and TK knew there had to be more to this.
Tai had been looking at his phone for most of the morning. If the number really was Mimi's, which he greatly suspected it was, then she was offering him a way back into her life. She wasn't the type of person who would use her child like a pawn; Mimi wasn't like either of their fathers. The question still lingered though, why was she so willing to extend an olive branch, especially after their last encounter? She had declared she didn't care about him; and the finality in her tone stopped Tai in his tracks. He had actually believed her. This made the text message all the more puzzling.
There were folders on his desk and his email was backed up, there was work to be done and Tai didn't care one bit. His intern, Iori Hida, had checked in on him a few times, subtly asking him to look over such and such cases because the higher ups wanted them ASAP.
The higher ups could really kiss his privileged ass. His father was the head of the heads. His father got him his job. His father had taken care of everything since he tore his ACL and fell into a depression. As much as he'd hate to admit it, Tai owed his father for dragging him out of his misery after his soccer career ended. The man had pushed him into law school, pulled him through the express ringer, and then put him in the very office where he sat now.
"Excuse me, sir, I know you're preoccupied, but could you please just spare a second to go over that Saimoto account?" Iori stood impossibly still at the door to Tai's office, his hands were stiffly at his sides and his expression was one of discomfort. "I've been yelled at by three people already. I know it's not my place, however, a fourth is not something I'm looking forward to."
The intern was a quiet person who liked to avoid any kind of confrontation – really made Tai wonder why he'd taken to law. He was far too tame for the world they worked in; it was shark infested and being shy and reserved got you nowhere. Tai felt bad for the kid though, so for the first time that day, he really put a genuine effort into doing his job. When he'd finished and he handed the file to Iori, he stopped the young man on his way out.
"Hida, can I ask you something before you go?"
Stopping abruptly, Iori turned and nodded though he stared at Tai with wary eyes. It was rare, if ever, that Tai spoke to him in such a defeated tone.
"If," Tai began, yet again looking at the text message on his phone, "if someone who meant a great deal of you basically declared they hated you, turned around and offered you a way back into their lives, would you take it?"
Iori's eyebrows came together as he tried to understand what Tai was asking. "Sir?"
"Never mind," Tai sighed, putting his phone down on his desk. "After you've delivered that to my father, you can head home for the day. I'll be leaving as well."
Tai dismissed him with a wave of his hand and gathered his things, getting ready to leave. He needed to talk to someone. Matt would be a good option. Or maybe even TK – someone who had a very clear view of the world and the most hopeful outcome for the future. The kid always had some pretty sound logic, and told it in a way Tai could really wrap his head around.
"Sir," Iori interrupted, "if this person still means as much to you as they once did, any chance you can get is a chance you should take."
Tai snorted. "Sounds like something TK would say. Thank you, Iori."
"You're welcome, sir. Have a good day."